Skip to comments.Gas tax won’t save I-35 project; raising excise tax wouldn’t be a popular move today
Posted on 04/04/2008 7:30:08 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
BELTON - There appears to be no easy way to address the challenges that inflation has brought to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Weve seen 60 percent inflation over the last five years for transportation projects, said Chris Lippincott, a TxDOT spokesman.
To look to the federal government for assistance would appear foolhardy at this point as the Federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to become insolvent by 2009. The fund was created in 1956 to ensure a dependable source of financing for U.S. interstates and highways.
The Federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to go into the red very soon, Lippincott said. The need far outweighs the resources.
The trust would have gone into the red sooner if over the past several years the federal government had not rescinded funding that states anticipated having at their disposal.
This year nearly $258 million in federal funds will be cut from the allotment Texas anticipated receiving. This comes on top of $666 million in federal cuts since January 2005, according to TxDOT.
With gas prices above the $3 a gallon mark, one unpopular solution to the funding crunch facing the federal government would be to raise gasoline taxes.
The federal gasoline tax has held steady at 18.4 cents since 1993 and would be 27 cents a gallon if it had kept pace with consumer inflation. States are in a similar boat in terms of not having had gas taxes keep pace with inflation.
Its a very difficult political sell to raise the gas tax to match the rate of inflation, said Matt Sundeen, a transportation analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Texas Legislature has recognized the inflation issue and given TxDOT the authority to issue bonds to help pay for highway projects.
Its cheaper now to repair highways by borrowing money than waiting, said state Sen. Troy Fraser, RHorseshoe Bay.
Critics say that while bonds may help the state get in front of inflation now, the debt could cause more problems in the future.
Fraser said that is an issue for the Legislature to worry about and when it is appropriate TxDOT should issue the bonds and move forward. He said the payback on the debt would not come from an existing TxDOT revenue stream.
Theyre being skittish by design, Fraser said. The Legislature does not want to go in the direction of the Trans-Texas Corridor but TxDOT is very adamant in going that direction. Thats what this battle is about, theyre trying to choose their own course.
Lippincott says that whether lawmakers want to acknowledge it or not, without additional funding Texas transportation leaders will be forced to make a choice between adequately maintaining the states transportation thoroughfares and expanding existing roadways.
Part of the reason the Trans-Texas Corridor is being pursued as a privately funded project is because traditional funding sources arent going to be available, Lippincott said.
The state estimates it needs at least $23 billion in additional funding the next 11 years to maintain U.S. and state highways and roads as it copes with a burgeoning population.
The Texas Transportation Commission is set to meet on April 24 to discuss a state transportation plan for 2009 to 2019.
In that plan commissioners will have a very tough decision on whether to continue funding projects at 2004 levels, Lippincott said.
AP Business Writer Donna Borak contributed to this report.
Friday, April 04, 2008
By David Doerr
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hillsboro, Lorena and Waco will be represented by a mayor, a university professor and a schoolteacher, respectively, for citizen input on the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor proposed to run parallel to Interstate 35.
Last week, the Texas Department of Transportation selected 18 people living along the I-35 corridor to serve on a citizens advisory committee formed to provide recommendations to the state about the future of the corridor. The committees membership is supposed to represent a cross section of citizens living along the corridor, department spokeswoman Gabby Garcia said.
They will be looking at not only the corridor project but looking at the overall corridor of (Interstate) 35, its (traffic) movement, its uses by motorists themselves and the impact it has up and down the corridor in Texas, she said.
The citizens committees work will analyze the 10-mile-wide study area identified two years ago by the transportation department as the preferred route of the Trans-Texas Corridor. If built, the proposed highway corridor would include a network of toll roads, rail lines and utility lines stretching from Laredo to the Oklahoma border.
Hillsboro Mayor John Erwin, a retired medical doctor, said he applied to be a member of the committee to represent the interests of his city and Hill County.
Specifically, he said he wants to ensure that the new highway would not direct traffic and commerce away from Hillsboro, home to the east-west split of I-35. Erwin said he also wants to see farmland in eastern Hill County protected.
There is a lot of divided opinion about the Trans-Texas Corridor, and I think if we have to have it then we should try to make it (as) useful and friendly to us as possible, he said.
Erwin said he also wants to advocate for upgrading the existing I-35 highway.
Don Greene, a Lorena resident and Baylor University professor, wants to use his expertise with geographic information systems to map public sentiment on the corridor and inform the committees recommendations. He said it will be an ambitious project, and he does not know if he will be able to complete it before the committees work is supposed to conclude in December 2009.
I dont want to be presumptuous, but at this early stage, it is kind of fun to daydream what the possibilities might be, he said.
Greene said the visual representation could be useful in helping policymakers better understand the views of citizens about the corridor.
For me personally, this is more of an academic exercise in which I want to accurately represent the voices in the community, he said. I want to step out and not interject my own personal attitudes and opinions but rather give voice to all those people not on the committee and say this is how people are feeling.
Karen Marstaller, a Waco area schoolteacher and owner of farmland in the corridor study area, said she looks at the proposed highway from several viewpoints. Her primary concerns are about improving safety along the I-35 corridor and protecting family farms, she said.
Marstaller said she looks forward to corresponding with the public to incorporate their input into the committees recommendations.
Although the corridor tends to garner strong reactions either for or against it, final solutions arent always so clear, she said.
As a schoolteacher I see a lot of gray areas, she said. I think we are just going to have to look at the data. I dont know what it is going to say. I dont know what the impact is going to be. We are going to have to examine those things pretty carefully, and I hope we will be given the opportunity to do so.
Trans-Texas Corridor PING!
That's set in your state Constitution. Plus, another 20 percent of the gas tax is going to other things.
I’d rather have toll roads than higher fuel taxes. Toll roads can be built faster. The four fastest growing metroplitan areas in the entire United States are Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. There’s no way the transportation needs of the state of Texas can be met by marginal upgrades of the existing interstate highways.
10 mile wide?? That will swallow up several small towns along I-35. WTF??
Very recently a Texas legislator suggested that Texas retirement funds invest in Texas roads. That sound good but the head of the teacher retirement fund said that they can make more money investing in China roads.
The point being that capital investment money is flowing all all around the world and if you exclude foreign investors, domestic investors will be excluded elsewhere.
The 10 mile wide area is the study area. The actual corridors would be about 1200’ in width with room for double tracked rail, high speed commuter rail or maglev, utilities, etc.
In Austin "speedo" means something else.
Cintra has lots of experience designing toll roads in Europe. I think it's a good idea to have a company with that kind of experience in charge. What's so great about having local engineering companies make the same design mistakes someone else made 40 years ago? It's better to learn from both the successes and mistakes of companies that have been designing and running toll roads for decades.
“The state estimates it needs at least $23 billion in additional funding the next 11 years to maintain U.S. and state highways and roads as it copes with a burgeoning population.”
If we can’t afford for people to move here, so be it.
Less than .001 favorable is divided?
“if you exclude foreign investors, domestic investors will be excluded elsewhere”
Screw that *tit for tat* neoliberalism.
The toll roads around Austin were built with American money (least I believe so) and operated locally. If we have foreign operators they won’t be around when we have issues.
Yet you hold yourself out as authority on the subject?
I damn sure know what it’s like when you *outsource* a product or service to a foreign country. I think you do too.
Cintra will be building and operating one of those “toll roads around Austin”.
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